Christmas presents come in all shapes and sizes, from that really cool thing from your best friend to the hideous, itchy sweater from your aunt Midge. "Margot at the Wedding" falls somewhere between the two.
Margot and her son Claude decide to visit her sister Pauline, after Pauline announces she's getting married to [a less-than-impressive specimen] Malcolm. Pauline is a bit of a space-case to begin with, mother to Ingrid (who is surprisingly well-adjusted given the household). Pauline has an on-going feud with the neighbors over a tree that may or may not be dead. Margot is an author, having an affair with a local book store owner.
The family is filled with angst and mistrust. Pauline suspects Margot only came for the wedding because it's a mile from where the book store owner affair guy lives. She's also resentful of Margot looking down her nose at Malcolm's unemployed ways and myriad of other flaws. Pauline hasn't let go of her belief Margot's book(s) have been too close to home, including Pauline blaming her sister for the break-up of her marriage (the result of stories in print).
The turmoil is felt, though not necessarily defined. The sisters don't much care for another, but go to great lengths to mask it most of the time, but it eventually begins to boil over. And when boiling happens and you get in contact, it's going to leave a mark.
Malcolm (Jack Black) has his share of witty lines and comments, though a few are over-done. (Though at times, that was amusing as well; the whole bit about the moustache being retained after the beard is gone -- for humor -- is humorous.) Nicole Kidman (Margot) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Pauline) are both quite plausible in their varying degrees of neuroses.
As a film, I wouldn't chalk this one up as anyone's greatest work. The big names in the film are impressive for Black and Kidman, though Leigh being married to the film's writer/director Noah Baumbach somewhat explain how she joined into the project.
The film ends abruptly, somewhat without warning, but I was torn as to that being a natural place to segue out, or if they'd just run out of steam. Honestly, I was bored. The combination of writing and acting were adequate, but not exceptional. It was a big tough to gauge if I'm being too harsh, however, in there was no one else in the theatre to eavesdrop on their exiting conversations.
A dark comedy, certainly, but not a laugh-out-loud comedy, nor even something akin to the dark humor of the Coen Brothers, for example, and their recent No Country for Old Men released film.
Margot agrees to a meet-the-author session at the guy's bookstore, he tries to corner her about the father-daughter angst being autobiographical, and she storms out. Pauline confronts Malcolm about his fidelity, he confesses having made out with the neighbor girl/babysitter Maisy, and Pauline leaves him. As she, Margot and Claude are out, Pauline calls him, he's crying/babbling, and all you hear is Margot (implying he may have slept with her). Margot puts Claude on a bus to visit his dad, she runs after the bus, and leaves with Claude on the bus.